Saturday, September 25, 2010
President Obama, September 12, 2008
Beginning January 1, 2013, ObamaCare imposes a 3.8% Medicare tax on unearned income, including the sale of single family homes, townhouses, co-ops, condominiums, and even rental income.
In February 2010, 5.02 million homes were sold, according to the National Association of Realtors. On any given day, the sale of a house, townhome, condominium, co-op, or income from a rental property can push middle-income families over the $250,000 threshold and slam them with a new tax they can’t afford.
This new ObamaCare tax is the first time the government will apply a 3.8 percent tax on unearned income. This new tax on home sales and unearned income and other Medicare taxes raise taxes more than $210 billion to pay for ObamaCare. The National Association of Realtors called this new Medicare tax on unearned income “destructive” and “ill-advised” and warned it would hurt job creation.
For previous ObamaCare Flatlines, visit click here.
Additional Document: http://www.house.gov/budget_republicans/press/2010/hc-ed-final-7apr10.pdf
WASHINGTON (AP) — The tally of newly laid-off workers requesting unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time in five weeks as the job market remained sluggish.
Initial claims for jobless aid rose by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 465,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Many economists expected a flat reading or small drop.
The rise suggests that jobs remain scarce and some companies are still cutting workers amid weak economic growth. Initial claims have fallen from a recent spike above a half-million last month. But they have been stuck above 450,000 for most of this year.
"What's becoming increasing clear is that this isn't a normal recovery," said Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak. "There's little we can do to create jobs until demand returns, and demand isn't returning."
Separately, the National Association of Realtors said sales of previously occupied homes rose 7.6 percent in August from July, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.13 million. Still, it was the second-worst month for sales in more than a decade. July was the worst month for sales in 15 years, a factor unchanged by a slightly upward revision.
And the Conference Board, a private research group, said its index of leading economic indicators rose modestly in August, more evidence that the economy will keep growing at a slow pace through the fall.
Jobless claims typically fall below 400,000 when hiring is robust and the economy is growing.
The four-week average of claims, a less volatile measure, declined by 3,250 to 463,250. That's the lowest level since the end of July, but down by only 4,000 since January.
Initial claims, while volatile, are considered a real-time snapshot of the job market. The weekly claims figures are considered a measure of the pace of layoffs and an indication of companies' willingness to hire.
New requests for jobless benefits have fallen sharply since June 2009, the month the recession ended. They topped 600,000 at the end of that month, but most of the decline took place last year.
Senator Patrick Leahy yesterday introduced the "Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act" (COICA). This flawed bill would allow the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to break the Internet one domain at a time — by requiring domain registrars/registries, ISPs, DNS providers, and others to block Internet users from reaching certain websites. The bill would also create two Internet blacklists. The first is a list of all the websites hit with a censorship court order from the Attorney General. The second, more worrying, blacklist is a list of domain names that the Department of Justice determines — without judicial review — are "dedicated to infringing activities." The bill only requires blocking for domains in the first list, but strongly suggests that domains on the second list should be blocked as well by providing legal immunity for Internet intermediaries and DNS operators who decide to block domains on the second blacklist as well. (It's easy to predict that there will be tremendous pressure for Internet intermediaries of all stripes to block these "deemed infringing" sites on the second blacklist.)
COICA is a fairly short bill, but it could have a longstanding and dangerous impact on freedom of speech, current Internet architecture, copyright doctrine, foreign policy, and beyond. In 2010, if there's anything we've learned about efforts to re-write copyright law to target "piracy" online, it's that they are likely to have unintended consequences.
This is a censorship bill that runs roughshod over freedom of speech on the Internet. Free speech is vitally important to democracy, which is why the government is restricted from suppressing speech except in very specific, narrowly-tailored situations. But this bill is the polar opposite of narrow — not only in the broad way that it tries to define a site "dedicated to infringing activities," but also in the solution that it tries to impose — a block on a whole domain, and not just the infringing part of the site.
We note that the DMCA already gives copyright owners legal tools to remove infringing material piece-by-piece, and to obtain injunctions requiring ISPs to block certain offshore infringing websites. The misuse of the existing DMCA provisions have had a tremendously damaging impact on fair use and free expression. By comparison, COICA streamlines and vastly expands this; it would allow the AG to shoot down a whole domain including all the blog posts, images, backups, and files underneath it. In other words, it's not just possible but probable that a great deal of legitimate, protected speech will be taken down in the name of copyright enforcement.
It is designed to undermine basic Internet infrastructure. When a user enters "eff.org" into their web browser, what responds is a domain name system server that tells the users' browser where EFF's website is located on the Internet. This bill would have the Attorney General prevent the players in that domain name system (possibly including your ISP) from telling you the truth about a website's location.
And it's not clear what a user would see in this situation — would it look like a "404 message," that simply says a site or page could not be found, without explaining why? Would users receive some kind of notice clarifying that the site they were seeking was made inaccessible at the behest of the government? Generally speaking, the bill forces all the Internet "middlemen" to act as if a part of the Internet doesn't exist, even though that page may otherwise be completely available and accessible.
COICA sends the world the message that the United States approves of unilateral Internet censorship. Which governments deny their citizens access to parts of the Internet? For now, it is mostly totalitarian, profoundly anti-democratic regimes that keep their citizens from seeing the whole Internet. With this bill, the United States risks telling countries throughout the world, "Unilateral censorship of websites that the government doesn't like is okay — and this is how you do it."
The bill's imbalances threaten to complicate existing laws and policies. The bill includes poorly drafted definitions that threaten fair use online, endanger innovative backup services, and raises questions about how these new obligations on Internet intermediaries are intended to fit with existing US secondary liability rules and the DMCA copyright safe harbor regime. Moreover, it seems easy to get on the blacklist — the bill sets up a seemingly streamlined procedure for adding domains (including a McCarthy-like procedure of public snitching) — but in contrast, it seems difficult to get off the list, with a cumbersome process to have a blacklisted domain removed.
And what do we get in exchange? Not much, if the goal is to actually limit unauthorized copying online. The bill gives the government power to play an endless game of whack-a-mole, blocking one domain after another, but even a relatively unsophisticated technologist can begin to imagine the workarounds: a return to encrypted peer-to-peer, modified /etc/hosts files (that don't rely on the domain name system for finding things on the Internet), and other tools, which will emerge and ensure that committed pirates have a way to route around the bill's damage to the DNS system.
To us, COICA looks like another misguided gift to a shortsighted industry whose first instinct with respect to the Internet is to try to break it. There are still many questions to be answered, but one thing is for sure — this bill allows the government to suppress truthful speech and could block access to a wealth of non-infringing speech, and the end result will do little to protect artists or mollify the industries that profit from them. Stay tuned for more analysis, information, and steps you can take to fight Internet censorship.
There is no doubt the home price bubble inflated by Easy Al Greenspan between 2000 and 2006 was the Mother of All Bubbles. Robert Shiller clearly showed that home prices were two standard deviations above expectations. Despite the unequivocal facts that Dr. Shiller put forth, millions of delusional unsuspecting dupes bought houses at the top of the market. These were the greater fools. They actually believed the drivel being spewed forth by the knuckleheaded anchors on CNBC. They actually believed the propaganda being preached by David Lereah from the National Association of Realtors (Always the Best Time to Buy) about home prices never dropping. They actually believed Bennie Bernanke when he said:
“We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though.” – 7/1/2005
“Housing markets are cooling a bit. Our expectation is that the decline in activity or the slowing in activity will be moderate, that house prices will probably continue to rise.” – 2/15/2006
Bennie actually made these statements when the chart below showed home prices at their absolute peak. You should keep this in mind whenever this rocket scientist opens his mouth about anything. And always remember that he is a self proclaimed “expert” on the Great Depression. That should come in handy in the next few years, just like his brilliant analysis of the strong housing market.
Source: Barry Ritholtz
Easy Al Greenspan created the Mother of All Bubbles by keeping interest rates at 1% for a prolonged period of time while encouraging everyone to take out adjustable rate mortgages. His unshakeable faith in the free market policing itself allowed Wall Street criminals, knaves and dirtbags to create fraudulent mortgage products which were then marketed to willing dupes and “retired” internet day traders. Al’s easy money policies and disinterest in enforcing existing banking regulations also birthed the ugly stepsister of the Mother of All Bubbles. Her name is the Consumer Debt Bubble. The chart below is hauntingly similar to the home price chart above. The consumer will be deleveraging for the next ten years. The numbskulls on CNBC and the other mainstream media have been falsely reporting for months that consumers were deleveraging when it was really just debt being written off by banks. Baby Boomers are not prepared for retirement and will be shifting dramatically from consuming to saving. As consumer expenditures decline from 70% of GDP back to 65% of GDP, consumer debt will resemble the home price chart to the downside.
The savings rate has soared all the way to 6% of personal income. This is up dramatically from the delusional boom years of 2004 and 2005 when it bottomed out at 1%. It ain’t even close to being enough to fund the looming retirements of the Baby Boomers. The savings rate averaged 10% from 1959 through 1989. In order for the American economy to revert to a balanced state where savings leads to investment which leads to wage increases, the savings rate will need to be 10% again. With annual personal income of $12.5 trillion, Americans will need to save an additional $500 billion per year. This means $500 billion less spending at the Mall, car dealerships, Home Depot, tanning salons, and strip joints. Don’t count on a consumer led recovery for a long long time.
So here we stand, two years after the worldwide financial system came within a few hours of imploding, and nothing has changed. Wall Street is still calling the shots. The political hacks that supposedly run this country have kneeled down before their insolvent Masters of the Universe. Bennie Bernanke has chosen to save his Wall Street masters and throw grandma under the bus. By keeping interest rates at zero, buying up trillions in toxic mortgages, and printing money as fast as his printing presses can operate, Bennie has birthed the bastard child of the mother of all bubbles. The chart below clearly shows the birth of this bastard. It is a distant cousin of the internet bubble bastard. Despite interest rates at or near all-time lows across the yield curve, money has poured into Treasury bonds. This makes no sense, as interest rates can’t go much lower. A small increase in rates will produce large losses for investors at these rates.
Source: Barry Ritholtz
Only a fool would buy a US Ten Year Treasury bond today yielding 2.55%. Of course, only a fool would buy a 1,300 square foot rancher in Riverside, California for $800,000 with 0% down using an Option ARM in 2005 too. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t millions of fools willing to do so. Each “investment” will have the same result – huge losses. As anyone can see from the chart below, the 10 year Treasury has been in a 30 year bull market. At this point you have to ask yourself one question. Do you feel lucky? Well do you, punk? There are a number of analysts who see rates falling further as the economy sinks into Depression part 2. That may happen, but we all know that Bennie and those in power will do anything to avoid a deflationary spiral. That means looser money and more printing.
The Federal Reserve does not want a 20 year recession like Japan. They will not get it. They’ll get a hyperinflationary collapse instead. Japan entered their 20 years of stagnation with a population that saved 18% of their income and huge trade surpluses. The Japanese government could count on the Japanese population to buy every bond they issued to pay for worthless stimulus projects. The US has entered this Depression with a population that saved 2% of their income and a trade deficit of $500 billion. John Hussman describes the differences between the US and Japan in his recent newsletter:
The impact of massive deficit spending should not be disregarded simply because Japan, with an enormously high savings rate, was able to pull off huge fiscal imbalances without an inflationary event. We may be following many of the same policies that led to stagnation in Japan, but one feature of Japan that we do not share is our savings rate. It is one thing to expand fiscal deficits in an economy with a very elevated private savings rate. In that event, the economy, though weak, has the ability to absorb the new issuance. It is another to expand fiscal deficits in an economy that does not save enough. Certainly, the past couple of years have seen a surge in the U.S. saving rate, which has absorbed new issuance of government liabilities without pressuring their value. But it is wrong to think that the ability to absorb these fiscal deficits is some sort of happy structural feature of the U.S. economy. It is not. It relies on a soaring savings rate, and without it, our heavy deficits will ultimately lead to inflationary events.
The bastard child of the mother of all bubbles likes to live dangerously. The morons in Congress will surely extend all of the Bush tax cuts without restraining spending in any way. That is what they call compromise in the hallowed halls of the Capitol. By 2020 the National Debt would be $30 Trillion under this scenario. Annual interest on the debt would exceed $2 trillion per year. This is a death spiral scenario, but it is the path we are choosing. Again, I ask you, who in their right mind would buy a 10 Year Treasury bond yielding 2.55% when the US will either have a $30 trillion National Debt or will have already collapsed under the weight of that debt?
Foreigners own approximately 30% of our outstanding debt. But, we have been relying on them to purchase almost 40% of our new issuance. We will need to issue $3 trillion of new debt in the next two years. Foreigners can add. They see that we are on a course that isn’t sustainable. They know that the Fed will attempt to monetize our debt and weaken the USD over time. At 2.5% interest rates, foreigners will accumulate massive losses as the USD depreciates. They will not accept these low rates for much longer. It is a confidence game. As they lose confidence in our ability to confront our debt issues, rates will be forced higher.
The pollyannas that seem to proliferate on CNBC and the rest of the mainstream media declare that since interest rates haven’t spiked and our hyper-debt based financial system is still functioning, then there is nothing wrong. They also didn’t see the internet collapse, housing collapse or financial system collapse coming. They never do and never will. China has actually been selling Treasuries for over a year. Japan is still buying, but their far worse debt/demographic crisis will force them to curtail purchases of Treasuries in the coming years. The purchases being made from the UK are really purchases from Middle Eastern countries with their oil money. I wonder what would happen to these purchases if war with Iran breaks out? It seems we have foreign countries increasingly reluctant to buy our debt when we are about to issue trillions of new debt in the next few years and as far as the eye can see.
The only thing that could possibly keep foreigners buying our debt would be higher interest rates. Our economy is so saturated with debt from top to bottom, that an increase in interest rates of only 2% would have a devastating impact on our economy. John Hussman understates the impact of deficits on our economic future:
Continued deficits will have substantial economic consequences once the savings rate fails to increase in an adequate amount to absorb the new issuance, and particularly if foreign central banks do not pick up the slack. We’re not there for now, but it’s important not to assume that the current period of stable and even deflationary price pressures is some sort of structural feature of the economy that will allow us to run deficits indefinitely.
The Krugmans of the world are not worried about our debt. They say pile it on. We are America. We are the most powerful nation in the history of the world. We can obliterate any enemy with the push of a button. Why do we need to worry about some debt? This is the hubris that has led to the downfall of every great Empire. As Rogoff and Reinhart point out in their recent book, this time is not different:
“As for financial markets, we have come full circle to the concept of financial fragility in economies with massive indebtedness. All too often, periods of heavy borrowing can take place in a bubble and last for a surprisingly long time. But highly leveraged economies, particularly those in which continual rollover of short-term debt is sustained only by confidence in relatively illiquid underlying assets, seldom survive forever, particularly if leverage continues to grow unchecked.
“This time may seem different, but all too often a deeper look shows it is not. Encouragingly, history does point to warning signs that policy makers can look at to assess risk – if only they do not become too drunk with their credit bubble – fueled success and say, as their predecessors have for centuries, “This time is different.”
A tipping point is reached when the government debt exceeds 90% of GDP. US government debt is currently at 93% of GDP. One year from now it will exceed 100% of GDP. The bastard child of the mother of all bubbles has jumped out a window on the hundredth floor of a NYC mega bank. As he passes the 50th floor, Paul Krugman asks him how is he doing? He says great, SO FAR. We all know what happens next. SPLAT!!!!
Just before 7:00 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney sits in the library of the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, for his regular CIA briefing. His solo briefing is more detailed than the president’s because he asks for more material. According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, the briefing is “unremarkable.” Cheney typically sets off for the three-mile drive to the White House at 7:30 a.m. He usually joins the president for his intelligence briefing, but with Bush away in Florida, there is no briefing at the White House on this day. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 327-328] According to David Kuo, a special assistant to the president, Cheney arrives at the White House at just after 7:00 a.m. this morning. Kuo will later recall that Cheney “looked like an absentminded professor, deep in thought, oblivious to the world.” [Kuo, 2006, pp. 183]
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Sean O’Keefe, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, stops by Vice President Dick Cheney’s White House office for an unscheduled visit. According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, Cheney’s colleagues have learned to keep any impromptu sessions with him short and succinct. Yet O’Keefe spends more than 20 minutes with the vice president. Cheney is scheduled to meet John McConnell, his chief speechwriter, at 8:30 a.m. Yet McConnell is left waiting outside the office while the vice president is deep in discussion with O’Keefe. According to Hayes, while the topic of O’Keefe and Cheney’s conversation seems urgent at present, “In time, neither man would be able to recall what it was that had been so important.” [Hayes, 2007, pp. 328-330] O’Keefe is a former Pentagon comptroller, and had been a close confidant of Dick Cheney’s when he was the secretary of defense, in the early 1990s. He was also secretary of the navy from 1992 to 1993. [New York Times, 7/7/1992; New York Times, 2/3/2003]
Just prior to learning about the 9/11 attacks, top US leaders are scattered across the country and overseas:
President Bush is in Sarasota, Florida. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Secretary of State Colin Powell is in Lima, Peru. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
General Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is flying across the Atlantic on the way to Europe. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Giesemann, 2008, pp. 19-40]
Attorney General John Ashcroft is flying to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Allbaugh is at a conference in Montana. [ABC News, 9/14/2002] Others are in Washington:
Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice are at their offices in the White House. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is at his office in the Pentagon, meeting with a delegation from Capitol Hill. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
CIA Director George Tenet is at breakfast with his old friend and mentor, former Senator David Boren (D), at the St. Regis Hotel, three blocks from the White House. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
FBI Director Robert Mueller is in his office at FBI headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is at his office at the Department of Transportation. [US Congress, 9/20/2001]
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is at a conference in the Ronald Reagan Building, three blocks from the White House. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1]
Entity Tags: John Ashcroft, Henry Hugh Shelton, Richard A. Clarke, Joseph M. Allbaugh, George W. Bush, George J. Tenet, David Boren, Norman Mineta, Robert S. Mueller III, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Vice President Dick Cheney later claims he learns of the first attack on the World Trade Center just before 9:00 a.m. He has just finished an impromptu discussion in his office at the White House with Sean O’Keefe, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (see (8:25 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). His chief speechwriter John McConnell has come in for a meeting, when his secretary, Debbie Heiden, calls in and tells him a plane hit the WTC. Cheney recalls, “So we turned on the television and watched for a few minutes.” However, journalist and author Stephen Hayes suggests Cheney learns of the attack earlier. He says that while McConnell is waiting for his meeting, O’Keefe comes out of the vice president’s office. McConnell gestures at a television showing the burning WTC, and “O’Keefe nodded; they had been watching the reports inside.” When McConnell enters Cheney’s office, “The small television on the other side of the desk was tuned to ABC News.” [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; Hayes, 2007, pp. 328-330] According to his own recollection, Cheney is puzzled by the reports: “I was sitting there thinking about it. It was a clear day, there was no weather problem—how in hell could a plane hit the World Trade Center?” [Newsweek, 12/31/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35] He claims it is only when he sees the second tower hit at 9:03 that he realizes this is a terrorist attack, saying, “as soon as that second plane showed up, that’s what triggered the thought: terrorism, that this was an attack.” [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002]
While he is waiting outside the vice president’s office for a scheduled meeting, Dick Cheney’s chief speechwriter John McConnell has been chatting with Cheney’s secretary Debbie Heiden and the Secret Service agent posted at the door. They all see the news about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center on the television above Heiden’s desk. McConnell later recalls, “There wasn’t any kind of alarm. It was just kind of, ‘Oh man, look at that.’” The Secret Service agent then receives an urgent call from the agency’s intelligence division. According to McConnell, “He put the phone down and told me: passenger jet. And that’s when you go, Geez. And then you start getting a sick feeling. Because a passenger aircraft is not going to crash into the World Trade Center.” [Hayes, 2007, pp. 329-330] But, according to the 9/11 Commission, it is not until they learn of the second crash at 9:03 that nearly everyone in the White House realizes this is not an accident (see (Between 8:46 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35]
In the Washington, DC, area, members of the public, emergency responders, and government officials experience serious communications problems. Telephone and cell phone services around the capital remain unavailable to members of the public for most of the day. [Verton, 2003, pp. 149]
Particular problems are experienced around the Pentagon. Reportedly, cellular and landline telephone communications there are “virtually unreliable or inaccessible during the first few hours of the response,” after it is hit at 9:37 (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C36]
Some senior government officials also experience communications difficulties:
CIA Director George Tenet has problems using his secure phone while heading from a Washington hotel back to CIA headquarters, located about eight miles outside Washington (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Independent, 11/6/2002; Tenet, 2007, pp. 161-162]
Secretary of State Colin Powell has to take a seven-hour flight from Peru, to get back to the capital. He later complains that, during this flight, “because of the communications problems that existed during that day, I couldn’t talk to anybody in Washington” (see (12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/11/2002]
Between the time of the second WTC attack and about 9:45 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House, has problems reaching Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert at the US Capitol by secure telephone (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2002; Hayes, 2007, pp. 336-337]
Even President Bush experiences difficulties communicating with Washington after leaving a school in Florida, and subsequently while flying on Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.-11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006]
A classified after-action report will later be produced, based on observations from a National Airborne Operations Center plane launched near Washington shortly before the time of the Pentagon attack (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to one government official, the report indicates that the nation was “deaf, dumb, and blind” for much of the day. [Verton, 2003, pp. 150-151] Members of the public in New York City also experience communications problems throughout the day, particularly with cell phones (see (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Vice President Dick Cheney sees the second plane hitting the World Trade Center live on television while meeting with his speechwriter John McConnell. He later claims that several other officials then come and join him in his White House office: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, political adviser Mary Matalin, and his chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who has come across from the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, “As word of the attacks spread throughout the West Wing, many White House officials migrated to Cheney’s office.” As well as Rice, Libby, and Matalin, these include Sean O’Keefe, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget; Josh Bolten, the deputy White House chief of staff; and counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 332] However, other accounts contradict this. Clarke claims that when he arrives at the White House shortly after 9:03, he sees the vice president and Rice, but the two are “alone in Cheney’s office” (see (9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (It is possible, though, that the other officials only arrive after Clarke ends his brief visit to the vice president’s office.) [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1-2] In numerous interviews where she discusses her actions this morning, Rice makes no mention of heading to Cheney’s office after the second tower is hit. [O, the Oprah Magazine, 2/1/2002; BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 ; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/11/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; New York Times, 9/11/2002] Also, according to some accounts, the Secret Service evacuates Cheney from his office shortly after the second attack occurs (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2002] Cheney claims that President Bush phones him around this time, while he is still in his office. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] But according to White House adviser Karl Rove, who is with the president in Florida, Bush is unable to reach the vice president because Cheney is being evacuated from his office (see (9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who is third in line for the presidency, is in his office suite on the second floor of the US Capitol building when he sees the second plane hitting the World Trade Center live on television. [Hastert, 2004, pp. 5] He is told that Vice President Dick Cheney will soon be calling him on the secure telephone in his office. [Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2002] However, Cheney is currently having problems using secure phones, and Hastert is too. Hastert later recalls, “To use the secure phone, you have to push a button and turn a key. On that dreadful day I couldn’t make the thing work. No matter what I did, I couldn’t connect with the vice president. As the minutes passed, my frustrations grew.” [Hastert, 2004, pp. 6; Hayes, 2007, pp. 336] Several attempts to reach the vice president are unsuccessful. Hastert’s later explanation is that “Anyone who has used a secure phone can tell you they do not work very well.” However, numerous other people in the Washington area, including senior government officials, are also experiencing serious communications problems throughout the day (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Around the time the Pentagon is hit, the light on Hastert’s regular phone starts flashing, but instead of being Cheney it is apparently a nuisance caller, who complains, “I can’t get a hold of Jeb Bush, I can’t get a hold of the president, I can’t get a hold of Colin Powell. All this stuff is happening. What are you guys doing?” When Hastert asks the caller who they are, their reply is, “I’m just a citizen. Who is this?” [Chicago Sun-Times, 9/25/2001; Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2002; Associated Press, 6/16/2007] Shortly afterwards, the Capitol is evacuated (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001) and Hastert’s Secret Service agents hurry him out of the building. It is not until around 11 a.m. that Cheney finally speaks to him. [Hastert, 2004, pp. 8-9; Hayes, 2007, pp. 337 and 340-341]
A senior Secret Service agent at the White House establishes a direct phone line with his counterpart at the FAA and is told there are more suspect planes that are unaccounted for, but this information supposedly does not lead to the evacuation of the vice president from his White House office.
Secret Service Liaison Calls FAA - Secret Service agent Nelson Garabito, who is responsible for coordinating the president’s movements and is also the agency’s liaison to the FAA, is at the Secret Service Joint Operations Center (JOC) at the White House, attending a 9:00 a.m. meeting. After seeing the second attack on the World Trade Center on television, he calls Terry Van Steenbergen, his counterpart at the FAA. According to Garabito, the TV’s sound is off, so it takes a few minutes before he realizes a second plane has hit the WTC and makes the call. But Van Steenbergen, who is at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, will say Garabito calls him “within 30 seconds” of the attack.
Warning Not Passed On - Shortly into the call, Van Steenbergen tells Garabito there are two unaccounted for planes that are possibly hijacked, in addition to the two that have crashed into the WTC. Garabito tells someone with him to run upstairs and pass this information on to other Secret Service agents, but, according to the 9/11 Commission, “it either was not passed on or was passed on but not disseminated.” As a result, Van Steenbergen’s information “failed to reach agents assigned to the vice president, and the vice president was not evacuated at that time.” [9/11 Commission, 7/28/2003, pp. 9-11; 9/11 Commission, 3/30/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 464]
Conflicting Evacuation Times - According to the 9/11 Commission, the Secret Service does not evacuate Vice President Dick Cheney from his office at the White House until “just before 9:36.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] However, some accounts will say Cheney is evacuated around the time of the second attack on the WTC (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which would suggest that Van Steenbergen’s information is indeed passed on and disseminated. [New York Times, 9/13/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2002] Garabito and Van Steenbergen will remain in contact over the phone—via a direct line, not a conference call—for the next 14 hours. Garabito feeds information to Van Steenbergen, though Van Steenbergen does not know how Garabito is getting this information. [9/11 Commission, 3/30/2004]
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is driving up to a gate outside the White House when Lisa Gordon-Hagerty—a member of his staff who is already at the White House—calls and tells him, “The other tower was just hit.” He responds: “Well, now we know who we’re dealing with. I want the highest level person in Washington from each agency on-screen now, especially the FAA.” He ordered Gordon-Hagerty to set up a secure video conference about five minutes earlier. A few minutes later, according to his own recollections, Clarke finds Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in Cheney’s White House office. Clarke tells Cheney: “It’s an al-Qaeda attack and they like simultaneous attacks. This may not be over.” Rice asks Clarke for recommendations, and he says, “We’re putting together a secure teleconference to manage the crisis.” He also recommends evacuating the White House. (A slow evacuation of the White House will begin around 9:20-9:25 (see (9:22 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) Rice notes the Secret Service wants them to go to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, and as Clarke leaves the other two, he sees Cheney gathering up his papers. In Cheney’s outer office, Clarke will recall, he sees eight Secret Service agents instead of the usual two, ready to move to the PEOC. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1-2; Australian, 3/27/2004]
According to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and others, Vice President Dick Cheney goes from his White House office to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the East Wing of the White House, at about this time. There is no video link between response centers in the East and West Wings, but a secure telephone line is used instead. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2002; Clarke, 2004, pp. 3-4]
Cheney Leaves Office 'Just after 9 a.m.' - One eyewitness, David Bohrer, a White House photographer, will say Cheney leaves for the PEOC just after 9:00 a.m. [ABC News, 9/14/2002] White House adviser Karl Rove, who is with the president in Florida, will appear to corroborate this account, later telling NBC News that when Bush tries phoning Cheney at around 9:16 a.m., he is unable to contact him because “the vice president was being… grabbed by a Secret Service agent and moved to the bunker” (see (9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] And Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta will say that when he arrives at the PEOC, at around 9:20-9:27, Cheney is already there (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; Academy of Achievement, 6/3/2006]
Cheney Leaves Office 'Just before 9:36' - However, there is a second account claiming that Cheney does not leave his office until sometime after 9:30 a.m. (The 9/11 Commission will say he is evacuated “just before 9:36.”) In this account, Secret Service agents burst into Cheney’s office. They carry him under his arms—nearly lifting him off the ground—and propel him down the steps into the White House basement and through a long tunnel toward the underground bunker. [New York Times, 10/16/2001; Newsweek, 12/31/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, it takes “Less than a minute” for the Secret Service agents to escort Cheney from his office down to the secure tunnel leading to the PEOC. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 335] Although its specifications are highly classified, two sources will tell journalist and author Barton Gellman that the PEOC is located two floors below ground. [Gellman, 2008, pp. 420]
Arrives at PEOC 'Shortly before 10:00' - Despite admitting that there “is conflicting evidence about when the vice president arrived” in the PEOC, the 9/11 Commission will conclude that the “vice president arrived in the room shortly before 10:00, perhaps at 9:58.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40] In addition to the eyewitness accounts of Clarke, Mineta, and Bohrer, several accounts will claim that Cheney is in the bunker when he is told Flight 77 is 50 miles away from Washington, at about 9:26 a.m. (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). This further supports the claims of Cheney going to the PEOC earlier on, rather than after 9:30.
After leaving the Booker Elementary School classroom, President Bush returns to an adjacent holding room where he is briefed by his staff, and gets his first look at the footage of the burning World Trade Center on a television that has been set up there. He instructs his press secretary, Ari Fleischer, to take notes to create an accurate accounting of events. According to some accounts, he speaks on the phone with Vice President Dick Cheney who is at the White House, and they both agree that terrorists are probably behind the attacks. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 92-93; Daily Mail, 9/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] But White House adviser Karl Rove, who is also in the holding room, later tells NBC News that Bush is unable to reach Cheney because the vice president is being moved from his office to the White House bunker at this time. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] The president speaks with New York Governor George Pataki and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Bush learns from Mueller that the planes that hit the WTC were commercial American aircraft, and at least one of them had apparently been hijacked after leaving Boston. According to some accounts, Bush also speaks with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice around this time. However, Rice herself will later suggest otherwise (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 93-94; Daily Mail, 9/8/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Fleischer and White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett quickly draft a statement for the president to deliver in the school’s library, which Bush rewords, scribbling three sheets of notes. Bush will deliver this at 9:29 a.m. (see 9:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). While he works on the statement, Bush briefly glances at the unfolding horror on the television. Turning to his aides in the room, he declares, “We’re at war.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 94; Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002] According to the 9/11 Commission, the focus at the present time is on the president’s statement to the nation, and the only decision made by Bush’s traveling party is to return to Washington. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Bush later claims he makes no major decisions in response to the crisis until after Air Force One takes off at around 9:55 a.m. (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta arrives at the White House bunker—the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC)—containing Vice President Dick Cheney and others. Mineta will tell NBC News that he arrives there at “probably about 9:27,” though he later says to the 9/11 Commission that he arrives at “about 9:20 a.m.” He also later recalls that Cheney is already there when he arrives. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004; Academy of Achievement, 6/3/2006] This supports accounts of Cheney reaching the bunker not long after the second WTC crash (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Questioned about this in 2007 by an activist group, Mineta will confirm that Cheney was “absolutely… already there” in the PEOC when he arrived, and that “This was before American Airlines [Flight 77] went into the Pentagon,” which happens at 9:37. Yet, while admitting there is “conflicting evidence about when the vice president arrived” in the PEOC, the 9/11 Commission will conclude that the “vice president arrived in the room shortly before 10:00, perhaps at 9:58.” Mineta also later claims that when he arrives in the PEOC, Mrs. Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president, is already there. Yet the 9/11 Commission will claim she only arrives at the White House at 9:52 (see (9:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40; 911truthseattle (.org), 6/26/2007] Once in the PEOC, Mineta establishes open phone lines with his office at the Department of Transportation and with the FAA Operations Center. [Academy of Achievement, 6/3/2006]
According to some accounts, Vice President Dick Cheney is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House by this time, along with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and others. Mineta will recall that, while a suspicious plane is heading toward Washington, an unidentified young man comes in and says to Cheney, “The plane is 50 miles out.” Mineta confers with acting FAA Deputy Administrator Monte Belger, who is at the FAA’s Washington headquarters. Belger says to him: “We’re watching this target on the radar, but the transponder’s been turned off. So we have no identification.” According to Mineta, the young man continues updating the vice president, saying, “The plane is 30 miles out,” and when he gets down to “The plane is 10 miles out,” asks, “Do the orders still stand?” In response, Cheney “whipped his neck around and said, ‘Of course the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary?’” Mineta will say that, “just by the nature of all the events going on,” he infers that the order being referred to is a shootdown order. Nevertheless, Flight 77 continues on and hits the Pentagon. [BBC, 9/1/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] However, the 9/11 Commission will later claim the plane heading toward Washington is only discovered by the Dulles Airport air traffic control tower at 9:32 a.m. (see 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). But earlier accounts, including statements made by the FAA and NORAD, will claim that the FAA notified the military about the suspected hijacking of Flight 77 at 9:24 a.m., if not before (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The FBI’s Washington Field Office was also reportedly notified that Flight 77 had been hijacked at about 9:20 a.m. (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will further contradict Mineta’s account saying that, despite the “conflicting evidence as to when the vice president arrived in the shelter conference room [i.e., the PEOC],” it has concluded that he only arrived there at 9:58 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] According to the Washington Post, the discussion between Cheney and the young aide over whether “the orders” still stand occurs later than claimed by Mineta, and is in response to Flight 93 heading toward Washington, not Flight 77. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Captain Charles Leidig is temporarily in command of the National Military Command Center (NMCC), “the military’s worldwide nerve center.” In response to the attacks on the World Trade Center, he convenes a conference call. [CNN, 9/4/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 ] Telephone links are established between the NMCC located inside the Pentagon (but on the opposite side of the building from where the explosion will happen), Canada’s equivalent Command Center, Strategic Command, theater commanders, and federal emergency-response agencies. At one time or another, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, key military officers, leaders of the FAA and NORAD, the White House, and Air Force One are heard on the open line. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] NORAD command director Captain Michael Jellinek claims this call was initiated “at once” after the second WTC tower was hit. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] However, the 9/11 Commission concludes it starts at 9:29 a.m. According to the commission, it begins as an all-purpose “significant event” conference. But at 9:30, Leidig states that it has just been confirmed that Flight 11 is still airborne and is heading toward Washington, DC. (This incorrect information apparently arose minutes earlier during a conference call between FAA centers (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001).) In response to this erroneous report, the significant event conference is ended at around 9:34. It then resumes at about 9:37 as an air threat conference call, which lasts for more than eight hours. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37] This is broadcast over a loudspeaker inside the NMCC. [US News and World Report, 8/31/2003] Brigadier General Montague Winfield, who later takes over from Leidig in charge of the NMCC, says, “All of the governmental agencies that were involved in any activity going on in the United States at that point, were in that conference.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] The call continues right through the Pentagon explosion; the impact is not felt within the NMCC. [CNN, 9/4/2002] However, despite being in the Pentagon when it is hit, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld doesn’t enter the NMCC or participate in the call until 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Entity Tags: Mike Jellinek, Montague Winfield, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, National Military Command Center, Federal Aviation Administration, Charles Leidig, Donald Rumsfeld
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
A supervisor at Washington’s Reagan National Airport calls the Secret Service Joint Operations Center (JOC) and warns it about an unidentified aircraft that is heading toward the White House. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/14/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] Controllers at Reagan Airport have just been contacted by controllers at Washington Dulles International Airport, and notified of the unidentified aircraft, later determined to be Flight 77, approaching Washington (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 33 ]
Supervisor Calls Secret Service - Immediately after he learns of this aircraft, Victor Padgett, the operations supervisor at the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) at Reagan Airport, picks up a direct line to the White House and informs the Secret Service JOC there: “We have a target five [miles] west. He’s turning south but he’s still on our scope. We’re not talking to him. It’s definitely a suspicious aircraft.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/14/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 146] According to the 9/11 Commission, this is “the first specific report to the Secret Service of a direct threat to the White House.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Padgett provides the Secret Service with continuous updates on the aircraft’s actions. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/14/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ] After traveling almost 10 miles south of Reagan Airport, the aircraft turns back toward Washington and again appears to be heading for the White House. Padgett tells the Secret Service: “What I’m telling you, buddy, if you’ve got people, you’d better get them out of there! And I mean right g_ddamned now!” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 158] (People will begin rapidly evacuating from the White House at about 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001]
Cheney Not Evacuated - According to the 9/11 Commission, when Padgett initially calls the JOC, “No move [is] made to evacuate the vice president” from his White House office. The officer who takes the call will explain, “[I was] about to push the alert button when the tower advised that the aircraft was turning south and approaching Reagan National Airport.” According to the Commission, Vice President Dick Cheney is not evacuated until “just before 9:36.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] (However, other accounts indicate he was evacuated earlier on, shortly after 9:00 a.m. (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2002] ) A supervisor at Dulles Airport also contacts the Secret Service around this time to notify it of the approaching aircraft (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ]
According to one account, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is given the go-ahead to authorize Air Force jets to shoot down threatening aircraft around this time. In late 2003, Clarke will recall to ABC News that, minutes earlier, he’d picked up the phone in the White House Situation Room and called Vice President Dick Cheney, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House. He’d told him: “We have fighters aloft now. We need authority to shoot down hostile aircraft.” [ABC News, 11/29/2003] This call appears to be one Clarke also describes in his 2004 book Against all Enemies, though in that account he will describe having made his request to Army Major Mike Fenzel, who is also in the PEOC, rather than directly to Cheney. According to that account, the call occurred shortly before Clarke learns of the Pentagon attack, so roughly around 9:36 (see (Between 9:30 a.m. and 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 6-7] Clarke describes to ABC News, “I thought that would take forever to get that [shootdown] authority.” But, “The vice president got on the phone to the president, got back to me, I would say within two minutes, and said, ‘Do it.’” [ABC News, 11/29/2003] If correct, this would mean the president authorizes military fighters to shoot down threatening aircraft at around 9:37-9:38. However, around this time, the president and vice president are reportedly having difficulty communicating with each other, while Bush heads from the Booker Elementary School to the Sarasota airport (see (9:34 a.m.-11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 6/18/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] Furthermore, this account contradicts several others. In his 2004 book, Clarke will describe being told to inform the Pentagon it has shootdown authorization slightly later, some time between 9:45 and 9:56 (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8] According to journalists Bob Woodward and Bill Sammon, Bush gives the shootdown authorization in a phone call with Cheney shortly after 9:56 (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 102; Woodward, 2002, pp. 17-18; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] The 9/11 Commission will say he gives it in a call at 10:18 (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41]
Shortly after boarding Air Force One, President Bush speaks by phone with Vice President Dick Cheney for approximately ten minutes. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 335-336] According to the 9/11 Commission, Cheney had reached the underground tunnel leading to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House at 9:37. He and the Secret Service agents escorting him had paused in an area of the tunnel with a secure phone and a television. He’d then asked to speak to the president, but it had taken a while for his call to be connected. However, elsewhere in its final report, the Commission will indicate that Bush, not Cheney, makes this phone call, saying that after he’d boarded Air Force One, the president “called the vice president.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40] Cheney later recalls making “one phone call [to the president] from the tunnel. And basically I called to let him know that we [at the White House] were a target and I strongly urged him not to return to Washington right away, that he delay his return until we could find out what the hell was going on.” [Newsweek, 12/31/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 464] He recalls, “What I was immediately thinking about was sort of continuity of government.” [Hayes, 2007, pp. 335-336] According to notes made by White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is with the president on Air Force One, at about 9:45 Bush tells Cheney: “Sounds like we have a minor war going on here, I heard about the Pentagon. We’re at war… somebody’s going to pay.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39 and 463; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141] Bush instructs Cheney to call the congressional leadership and give them a briefing. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001] (However, around this time, Capitol Hill is being evacuated (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001).) The 9/11 Commission states that, according to “contemporaneous notes,” at 9:55 “the vice president [is] still on the phone with the president advising that three planes [are] missing and one had hit the Pentagon.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40] In his book Against All Enemies, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke indicates that it is around the time this call occurs that he is informed that the president has authorized the military to shoot down hostile aircraft (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8] Yet various accounts of Bush and Cheney’s call make no mention of the president and vice president discussing any orders or making any decisions. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 101; Woodward, 2002, pp. 16; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40; Hayes, 2007, pp. 335-336] Their call apparently ends around 9:56-9:57, as, according to the 9/11 Commission, Cheney enters the PEOC “shortly before 10:00, perhaps at 9:58.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40] (However, some accounts indicate that he first enters the PEOC significantly earlier than this (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) After hanging up, Bush turns to the men who are with him at his desk: his chief of staff Andrew Card, his senior adviser Karl Rove, military aide Lt. Col. Tom Gould, and Fleischer. He tells them: “That’s what we’re paid for, boys. We’re gonna take care of this. When we find out who did this, they’re not gonna like me as president. Somebody’s going to pay.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 101; Woodward, 2002, pp. 17] According to some accounts, shortly after finishing this call, the president and vice president will be back on the phone with each other (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
According to his own account, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is informed that President Bush has authorized the military to shoot down threatening aircraft. Clarke had requested that this authorization be given at around 9:36 (see (Between 9:30 a.m. and 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). In his 2004 book Against all Enemies he will state that he receives a response shortly after the time people begin rapidly evacuating from the White House, and while Air Force One is getting ready to take off. This would therefore be sometime between 9:45 and 9:56. He gets a phone call from the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, where Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice are located. On the other end is Army Major Mike Fenzel. Fenzel tells Clarke: “Air Force One is getting ready to take off, with some press still on board. He’ll divert to an air base. Fighter escort is authorized. And… tell the Pentagon they have authority from the president to shoot down hostile aircraft, repeat, they have authority to shoot down hostile aircraft.” Clarke replies, “Roger that.” In his recollection of this call, Clarke comments, “I was amazed at the speed of the decisions coming from Cheney and, through him, from Bush.” Clarke then gets the attention of those on the video conference screen for the Pentagon, and informs them, “the president has ordered the use of force against aircraft deemed to be hostile.” [CNN, 9/12/2001; Clarke, 2004, pp. 7-8] This description contradicts several other accounts of when the president gives the shootdown authorization. In late 2003, Clarke tells ABC News he gets the go-ahead from the vice president “within two minutes” after he requested shootdown authorization, meaning therefore around 9:37-9:38 (see (9:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 11/29/2003] Some accounts say that Bush gives the authorization later, at shortly after 9:56 (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 102; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] According to the 9/11 Commission, it is not given until around 10:18 (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41]
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R), who is third in line for the presidency, is evacuated from the US Capitol building and flown to a secret underground bunker in Virginia, where he remains until late in the afternoon. [ABC News, 9/11/2001; ABC News, 9/15/2002] Around 9:48, the Capitol building had begun evacuating (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). At that time, Hastert was on the House floor. Two members of his security detail now enter the chamber and tell him, “We’re going to evacuate the Capitol, and you’re going to a secure location.” They take him out of the building and drive him hurriedly to Andrews Air Force Base, ten miles southeast of Washington. After he arrives there, Hastert is finally able to communicate with Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House. (Hastert had been trying to contact Cheney earlier on, but without success (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001.) Cheney tells Hastert: “There’s a real danger. I want you to go to a secure location.” [Hastert, 2004, pp. 8-9] Hastert gets on a helicopter and is flown to the secret underground bunker at Mount Weather in Bluemont, Virginia, 48 miles outside Washington—about 20 minutes journey by air. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001; ABC News, 9/15/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 81] In the following hours, other top members of the House and Senate leaderships will join him there (see (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/11/2001; Hastert, 2004, pp. 10] Hastert remains at the secure facility for several hours, and will return to Washington late in the afternoon (see (Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2002] Hastert’s evacuation to Mount Weather is the result of “Continuity of Government” (COG) orders, which provide for evacuating the third and fourth in the line of presidential succession during a national emergency, in order to protect the nation’s constitutional leadership. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke activated the COG plan shortly before 10:00 a.m. this morning (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8]
According to the 9/11 Commission, the Secret Service logs Lynne Cheney’s arrival at the White House at 9:52 a.m. She joins her husband, Vice President Dick Cheney, in the tunnel leading to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) bunker below the White House, and then enters the PEOC alongside him. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40] She had been at her downtown office around the time the second tower was hit, at 9:03, when she was driven by the Secret Service to the White House. [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] Yet, in a brief interview with an activist group in 2007, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta will claim that Lynne Cheney was already in the PEOC when he arrived there. [911truthseattle (.org), 6/26/2007] According to Mineta’s recollections, this was at around 9:20-9:27 (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Lynne Cheney will sit in a corner of the PEOC, and write down notes on the various reports that are received this morning by the vice president. [Cheney, 9/11/2001; Newsweek, 12/31/2001]
Air Force One takes off and quickly gains altitude. One passenger later says, “It was like a rocket. For a good ten minutes, the plane was going almost straight up.” [CBS News, 9/11/2002] Once the plane reaches cruising altitude, it flies in circles. Journalists on board sense this because the television reception for a local station generally remains good. “Apparently Bush, Cheney, and the Secret Service argue over the safety of Bush coming back to Washington.” [Salon, 9/11/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] For much of the day Bush is plagued by connectivity problems in trying to call Cheney and others. He is forced to use an ordinary cell phone instead of his secure phone. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
President Bush talks on the phone to Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney recommends that Bush authorize the military to shoot down any plane that might be under the control of hijackers. “I said, ‘You bet,’” Bush later recalls. “We had a little discussion, but not much.” [USA Today, 9/16/2001; Newsday, 9/23/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; CBS News, 9/11/2002] Bush recalls that this isn’t a difficult decision for him to make, “once I realized there was a protocol… because again, I now realized we’re under attack. This is a war.” According to journalists Bob Woodward and Bill Sammon, this call between Bush and Cheney takes place shortly after 9:56, when Air Force One took off from the Sarasota airport. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 102; Woodward, 2002, pp. 17-18; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Consistent with this, Bush and Cheney will tell the 9/11 Commission that Bush gives the shootdown authorization during a call estimated to occur between about 10:00 and 10:15 (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But the 9/11 Commission will say the authorization is given in a later call, at 10:18 (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40-41] Bush later indicates that he doesn’t make any major decisions about how to respond to the attacks until after boarding Air Force One, which fits with these accounts of him approving shootdown authorization after take off. [White House, 12/4/2001; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 ] But according to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, the authorization is given earlier, at some point between about 9:38 and 9:56 (see (9:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 11/29/2003; Clarke, 2004, pp. 8]
In the conference room of the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and their aides watch the South Tower collapsing on television. [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] Cheney will later say that the WTC coming down “was a shock to everybody—it certainly was to me.” [PBS, 9/9/2002] However, if he is indeed shocked, this is not how Cheney appears to others in the room. One witness who is present will later recall that, as the South Tower collapses, there is “a groan in the room that I won’t forget, ever. It seemed like one groan from everyone.” However, Cheney makes no sound, but closes his eyes for a long, slow blink. The witness says, “I remember turning my head and looking at the vice president, and his expression never changed.” [Washington Post, 6/24/2007] According to Mary Matalin, a counselor to the vice president, Cheney says nothing in response to the collapse, but “he emoted in a way that he emotes, which was to stop.” [CNN, 9/11/2002; CNN, 9/11/2002] When he is told that a casualty estimate ranges well into the thousands, the vice president reportedly just nods grimly. [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] According to the Washington Post, three people who are present say they see no sign now or later “of the profound psychological transformation that has often been imputed to Cheney.” What they see is “extraordinary self-containment and a rapid shift of focus to the machinery of power. While others assessed casualties and the work of ‘first responders,’ Cheney began planning for a conflict that would call upon lawyers as often as soldiers and spies.” He will promptly begin assembling the legal team that subsequently assists him in expanding presidential power (see (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 6/24/2007]
According to the 9/11 Commission, Vice President Dick Cheney is told that the Air Force is trying to establish a combat air patrol (CAP) over Washington. Cheney, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, then calls President Bush on Air Force One to discuss the rules of engagement for this CAP. Cheney later tells the 9/11 Commission that he’d felt “it did no good to establish the CAP unless the pilots had instructions on whether they were authorized to shoot if the plane would not divert.” He recalls that “the president signed off on that concept.” Bush will recall this phone call and emphasize to the 9/11 Commission that, during it, he had authorized the shootdown of hijacked aircraft. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is in the PEOC with Cheney, will tell the Commission she recalls hearing Cheney inform the president: “Sir, the CAPs are up. Sir, they’re going to want to know what to do.” Then she hears Cheney say, “Yes sir.” However, as the Commission will later note, “Among the sources that reflect other important events that morning there is no documentary evidence for this call, although the relevant sources are incomplete” (see (Mid 2004)). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40-41] Reportedly, some members of the Commission’s staff will not believe this call between Bush and Cheney ever took place. [Newsweek, 6/20/2004] Cheney phones Bush at 10:18 (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to the 9/11 Commission, it is in fact during that call that Bush authorizes the military to shoot down threatening aircraft. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41]
According to an in-depth examination by the Washington Post, within hours of the 9/11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney begins working to secure additional powers for the White House. Cheney had plans in place to begin acquiring these powers for the executive branch before the attacks, but had not begun to execute them.
Gathering the Team - David Addington, Cheney’s general counsel and legal adviser, had been walking home after having to leave the now-evacuated Eisenhower Executive Office Building. He receives a message from the White House telling him to turn around, because the vice president needs him. After Addington joins Cheney in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the East Wing of the White House, the pair reportedly begin “contemplating the founding question of the legal revolution to come: What extraordinary powers will the president need for his response?” Later in the day, Addington connects by secure video with Timothy Flanigan, the deputy White House counsel, who is in the White House Situation Room. John Yoo, the deputy chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, is also patched in from the Justice Department’s command center. White House counsel Alberto Gonzales joins them later. This forms the core legal team that Cheney will oversee after the terrorist attacks. Associate White House counsel Bradford Berenson will later recall: “Addington, Flanigan and Gonzales were really a triumvirate. [Yoo] was a supporting player.” Addington dominates the group. Gonzales is there primarily because of his relationship with President Bush. He is not, Yoo will later recall, “a law-of-war expert and [doesn’t] have very developed views.” Along with these allies, Cheney will provide what the Washington Post calls “the rationale and political muscle to drive far-reaching legal changes through the White House, the Justice Department, and the Pentagon,” which will free the president to fight the war on terror, “as he saw fit.”
Drafting the AUMF - The team begins drafting the document that will become the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF—see October 10, 2002) passed by Congress for the assault on Afghanistan. In the words of the group, the president is authorized “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.”
Extraordinarily Broad Language - The language is extraordinarily broad; Yoo will later explain that they chose such sweeping language because “this war was so different, you can’t predict what might come up.” The AUMF draft is the first of numerous attempts to secure broad powers for the presidency, most justified by the 9/11 attacks. The Washington Post will later report, “In fact, the triumvirate knew very well what would come next: the interception—without a warrant—of communications to and from the United States” (see September 25, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; Unger, 2007, pp. 220-221; Washington Post, 6/24/2007]
Vice President Cheney and other leaders now in the White House bunker begin receiving reports from the Secret Service of a presumably hijacked aircraft heading toward Washington. The Secret Service is getting this information about Flight 93 through links to the FAA. However, they are looking at a projected path, not an actual radar return, so they do not realize that the plane crashes minutes later. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
At some unspecified time, apparently relatively soon after Flight 93 crashed, Vice President Dick Cheney calls CIA Director George Tenet and asks him if he is anticipating any further attacks. Tenet replies, “No. My judgment is that they’re done for the day.” Tenet will later explain his reasoning behind this judgment: “There was a lull in the action, and to me that was telling.… I had no data to go on. But the pattern of spectacular multiple attacks within a very tight attack window was consistent with what we knew of al-Qaeda’s modus operandi based on the East African embassy attacks and others. Events happened within a strict timeline, and then they were done.” Yet at 10 a.m., Tenet had wanted the CIA headquarters evacuated, following reports that several airplanes were not responding to communications and were perhaps heading toward Washington. A large number of the CIA’s workforce had therefore been sent home (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Tenet, 2007, pp. 164 and 167] And according to recordings of the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) later obtained by Vanity Fair magazine, “inside NEADS there was no sense that the attack was over with the crash of United 93; instead, the alarms go on and on. False reports of hijackings, and real responses, continue well into the afternoon” (see 10:15 a.m. and After September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Tenet and his staff will return to the CIA headquarters building at around 1 p.m. after having earlier evacuated to the CIA’s printing plant nearby. By that time, Tenet will say, “The danger was over for the day, in our estimation.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 168]
The Secret Service, viewing projected path information about Flight 93, rather than actual radar returns, does not realize that Flight 93 has already crashed. Based on this erroneous information, a military aide tells Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the White House bunker that the plane is 80 miles away from Washington. Cheney is asked for authority to engage the plane, and he quickly provides it. The aide returns a few minutes later and says the plane is 60 miles out. Cheney again gives authorization to engage. A few minutes later and presumably after the flight has crashed or been shot down, deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten suggests Cheney contact President Bush to confirm the engage order. Bolten later tells the 9/11 Commission that he had not heard any prior discussion on the topic with Bush, and wanted to make sure Bush knew. Apparently, Cheney calls Bush and obtains confirmation (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] However, there is controversy over whether Bush approved a shootdown before this incident or whether Cheney gave himself the authority to make the decision on the spot. As Newsweek notes, it is a moot point in one sense, since the decision was made on false data and there is no plane to shoot down. [Newsweek, 6/20/2004]
A lieutenant colonel at the White House repeatedly relays to the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon that Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that fighter jets are cleared to engage an inbound aircraft if they can verify that the aircraft is hijacked. The lieutenant colonel notifies the NMCC of the authorization over the air threat conference call (see (9:29 a.m.-9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Cheney, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, said at sometime between 10:10 and 10:15 that fighters could engage an aircraft that was reportedly approaching Washington (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, it is only when Cheney calls President Bush at 10:18 a.m. that Bush confirms the shootdown order (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). The shootdown order will be received by NORAD, and then, at 10:31 a.m., sent out to its three air defense sectors in the continental US (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41-42; Spencer, 2008, pp. 240]
In a phone call with Vice President Dick Cheney, President Bush authorizes the military to shoot down hostile aircraft. Minutes earlier, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, a military aide had asked Cheney for the authority to engage what appeared to be an inbound aircraft, and Cheney had promptly given it (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). During a subsequent quiet moment, deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, who is also in the PEOC, suggested to Cheney that he contact the president to confirm the engage order. Therefore at 10:18 a.m., according to White House logs, Cheney calls Bush, who is on board Air Force One, and speaks with him for two minutes. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer notes that at 10:20 a.m., Bush informs him that he has authorized the shootdown of aircraft, if necessary. According to the 9/11 Commission, “Fleischer’s 10:20 note is the first mention of shootdown authority.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41 and 465] Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove, who is also on Air Force One, gives a similar account, later telling NBC News that “at about 10:20,” Bush goes from his office into the private cabin in front of it, “and took a phone call, and came back in and said that he had talked to the vice president and to the secretary of defense and gave the authorization that [the] military could shoot down any planes not under control of their crews that were gearing critical targets.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] But other accounts indicate the president gives the shootdown authorization earlier than this. Bush and Cheney will claim that Bush gives the authorization during a call estimated to occur between about 10:00 and 10:15 (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40] Similarly, according to journalists Bob Woodward and Bill Sammon, Bush gives it in a call with Cheney soon after 9:56, when Air Force One takes off (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 102; Woodward, 2002, pp. 17-18; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke says it is given even earlier. He states that, at some point between about 9:38 and 9:56, he is instructed to tell the Pentagon it has authorization from the president to shoot down hostile aircraft (see (9:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 11/29/2003; Clarke, 2004, pp. 8]
Those inside the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House learn that an aircraft is down in Pennsylvania. (This turns out to be Flight 93.) Many of the people in the PEOC wonder whether military fighters shot it down. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41] National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice later claims that, like her, Vice President Dick Cheney initially thinks, “it must have been shot down by the fighters.” [Hayes, 2007, pp. 339] However, Eric Edelman—Cheney’s national security adviser, who is also in the PEOC—will later recall: “The vice president was a little bit ahead of us.… He said, sort of softly, and to nobody in particular, ‘I think an act of heroism just took place on that plane.’” [CNN, 9/11/2002; CNN, 9/14/2002] Yet the Pentagon does not confirm that Flight 93 was not shot down until after midday (see (Shortly After 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] And the phone calls from Flight 93 that indicated a passenger revolt took place are only reported later on. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Vice President Cheney and others in the White House bunker are given a report of another airplane heading toward Washington. Cheney’s Chief of Staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, later states, “We learn that a plane is five miles out and has dropped below 500 feet and can’t be found; it’s missing.” Believing they only have a minute or two before the plane crashes into Washington, Cheney orders fighters to engage the plane, saying, “Take it out.” However, reports that this is another hijacking are mistaken. It is learned later that day that a Medevac helicopter five miles away was mistaken for a hijacked plane. [Newsweek, 12/31/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Vice President Cheney reportedly calls President Bush and tells him of a threat to Air Force One and that it will take 40-90 minutes to get a protective fighter escort in place. Later, many will express doubt about the existence of this threat. For instance, Representative Martin Meehan (D) says, “I don’t buy the notion Air Force One was a target. That’s just PR, that’s just spin.” [Washington Times, 10/8/2002] A later account will call the threat “completely untrue,” and say Cheney probably made the story up. A well-informed, anonymous Washington official says, “It did two things for [Cheney]. It reinforced his argument that the president should stay out of town, and it gave George W. an excellent reason for doing so.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] In 2004, the Wall Street Journal will investigate the alleged threat and report two differing accounts of this episode, one from White House spokesman Dan Bartlett, and the other from the office of Vice-President Cheney.
No Actual Threat - Bartlett will say there had not been any actual threat, but that word of a threat results from confusion in the White House bunker, as multiple conversations go on simultaneously. Many of these exchanges apparently relate to rumors that turn out to be false, such as reports of attacks on the president’s ranch in Texas and the State Department. Bartlett will say, “Somebody was using the word ‘angel,’ [a code word for Air Force One and] that got interpreted as a threat based on the word ‘angel.’”
Cheney's Account Changes - The vice president’s office will say it still could not rule out that a threat to Air Force One actually had been made. Cheney initially says word of the threat had been passed to him by Secret Service agents, but two former senior Secret Service agents on duty that day will deny their agency played any role in receiving or passing on the threat. An official in Cheney’s office will then say that Cheney was mistaken and that he had received word of the threat from “a uniformed military person” manning the underground bunker. Apparently, nobody knows the identity of this person. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 ]
Vice President Dick Cheney tries to bring Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld up to date over the National Military Command Center’s (NMCC) conference call (see (9:29 a.m.-9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), as Rumsfeld arrived at the NMCC just minutes earlier (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Cheney explains that he has given authorization for hijacked planes to be shot down and that this has been passed on to the fighter pilots. Rumsfeld asks, “So we’ve got a couple of aircraft up there that have those instructions at the present time?” Cheney replies: “That is correct. And it’s my understanding they’ve already taken a couple of aircraft out.” Then Rumsfeld says: “We can’t confirm that. We’re told that one aircraft is down but we do not have a pilot report that they did it.” Cheney is incorrect about his authorization having reached the pilots (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
After Vice President Dick Cheney had alerted the president to a possible threat to Air Force One (see 10:32 a.m. September 11, 2001), Bush and his aides had begun discussing whether to change directions. They are currently flying off the coast of South Carolina, about half way on their 900-mile journey from Florida back to Washington, DC. Bush had suggested diverting to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, but Cheney favored him heading to a military base, such as Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. At 10:41, Cheney had called the president again, telling him that both National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and himself agreed that Washington was no longer safe enough for Bush’s return. The president therefore gives the order for his plane to divert. Within minutes, Air Force One turns sharply to the left, and heads toward Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport, Louisiana, a distance of about 800 miles away. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-109; Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, is informed that Vice President Dick Cheney wants him to come down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), located below the East Wing of the White House. Clarke heads down and, after being admitted by Cheney’s security detail, enters the PEOC. In addition to the vice president and his wife Lynne Cheney, the PEOC contains National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, political adviser Mary Matalin, Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, and White House counselor Karen Hughes. Clarke can see the White House Situation on a screen. But Army Major Mike Fenzel, who is also in the PEOC, complains to him, “I can’t hear the crisis conference [that Clarke has been leading] because Mrs. Cheney keeps turning down the volume on you so she can hear CNN… and the vice president keeps hanging up the open line to you.” Clarke later describes that Lynne Cheney is, like her husband, “a right-wing ideologue,” and is offering her advice and opinions while in the PEOC. When Clarke asks the vice president if he needs anything, Cheney replies, “The [communications] in this place are terrible.” His calls to President Bush keep getting broken off. By the time Clarke heads back upstairs to the Situation Room, it is 12:30 p.m. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 17-19]
President Bush spends most of his time at Barksdale Air Force Base arguing on the phone with Vice President Dick Cheney and others over where he should go next. The media are now starting to ask about the president’s whereabouts, and why he has not returned to Washington. “A few minutes before 1 p.m.,” Bush agrees to fly to Nebraska. As earlier, there are rumors of a “credible terrorist threat” to Air Force One that are said to prevent his return to Washington. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] In addition, there are reports of other unaccounted for planes that are seen as possible threats: two international flights and two domestic ones. A senior administration official will later comment, “That’s a potential of four missiles in the air, and we were concerned that if Air Force One landed in a predictable place, one of those planes could hit it on the ground.” [New York Times, 9/16/2001] At 1:25, Bush speaks with his chief of staff Andrew Card and the head of the Secret Service detail. He tells them: “I want to go back home ASAP. I don’t want whoever this is holding me outside of Washington.” But the Secret Service agent replies, “Our people say it’s too unsteady still,” and Card adds, “The right thing is to let the dust settle.” Bush acquiesces. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 119] In a book about the Secret Service, author Philip Melanson will later comment on the president’s failure to promptly return to Washington: “If the president appeared less than resolute at any point… it was the fault of agents who were overzealous in their desire to protect him, administration sources have offered.” Yet, “The Service, whose first duty that day or any other day is to protect the president, has never publicly pointed out that Bush could have overruled them at any time and ordered Air Force One to Washington, DC.” [Melanson, 2002, pp. 326]
In the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the East Wing of the White House, numerous key officials are assembled, including Vice President Dick Cheney, his chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House counselor Karen Hughes, and others. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 18-19] A technician informs Libby that levels of carbon dioxide in the room have climbed too high. Libby remembers that excessive carbon dioxide can affect a person’s judgment, and arranges to have any non-essential personnel—comprising various lower-level aides—removed from the room. [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, it is in fact David Addington, the vice president’s general counsel, who asks the lower-level officials to leave. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 343]
Vice President Dick Cheney talks with Congressional leaders who have been taken to a secure bunker outside Washington, and tells them they cannot return to the capital. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Lott, 2005, pp. 221-222] A number of top members of the House and Senate leaderships were evacuated to the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Facility in Bluemont, Virginia, during the morning and early afternoon (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/15/2002]
Cheney Controls Information - In the middle of the afternoon, the vice president makes a conference call from the White House to a number of groups, including these Congressional leaders. As Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R) will recall, Cheney “told us what he knew: that it was a terrorist attack; that it was carried out by al-Qaeda and directed by Osama bin Laden; that thousands were dead in New York, and hundreds more at the Pentagon. Though some concerns still existed, the immediate danger had abated.” [Lott, 2005, pp. 221] Cheney also says the president has been moving around since the time of the attacks, and is now at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 115-116]
'We Control the Helicopters' - When the leaders say they want to leave the bunker and return to Washington, Cheney refuses. According to the Washington Post, his reason is that there are still terrorist threats and there is no way to guarantee their security. Senator Don Nickles (R) complains, “We’re a separate branch of government—why do we need the approval of the White House?” Cheney replies, “Don, we control the helicopters.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Cheney Initially Does Not Allow Congressional Leaders to Return - Cheney then initiates three or four private conversations, one of which is with Trent Lott. Lott says: “I want to go back to the Capitol. That’s where we belong.” But again Cheney replies, “No.” However, later in the afternoon, the Congressional leaders decide to return to Washington, and permission is arranged for this (see (Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Hastert, 2004, pp. 10; Lott, 2005, pp. 221-222] It is unclear exactly when Cheney holds this conference call. If it takes place while Bush is at Offutt, as Cheney indicates, this would place it between 2:50 p.m. and around 4:30 p.m. But from around 3:15 until 4:00, Cheney participates in the president’s video conference call with his principal advisers (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001), so it is unclear if Cheney talks to the Congressional leaders before or after this. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326]
At Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, President Bush convenes the first meeting of the National Security Council since the attacks occurred. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 26] He begins the video conference call from a bunker beneath the base. He and Chief of Staff Andrew Card visually communicate directly with Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Rice, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, CIA Director Tenet, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, and others. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002] According to Clarke, Bush begins the meeting by saying, “I’m coming back to the White House as soon as the plane is fueled. No discussion.” But according to Condoleezza Rice, he begins with the words, “We’re at war.” Clarke leads a quick review of what has already occurred, and issues that need to be quickly addressed. Bush asks CIA Director Tenet who he thinks is responsible for the day’s attacks. Tenet later recalls, “I told him the same thing I had told the vice president several hours earlier: al-Qaeda. The whole operation looked, smelled, and tasted like bin Laden.” Tenet tells Bush that passenger manifests show that three known al-Qaeda operatives had been on Flight 77. According to Tenet, when he tells the president in particular about Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (two of the alleged Flight 77 hijackers), Bush gives Mike Morell, his CIA briefer, “one of those ‘I thought I was supposed to be the first to know’ looks.” (Other evidence indicates the third al-Qaeda operative whose name is on the passenger manifest would be Salem Alhazmi (see 9:53 p.m. September 11, 2001).) Tenet tells the meeting that al-Qaeda is “the only terrorist organization capable of such spectacular, well-coordinated attacks,” and that “Intelligence monitoring had overheard a number of known bin Laden operatives congratulating each other after the attacks. Information collected days earlier but only now being translated indicated that various known operatives around the world anticipated a big event. None specified the day, time, place or method of attack.” Richard Clarke later corroborates that Tenet had at this time told the president he was certain that al-Qaeda was to blame. Yet only six weeks later, in an October 24, 2001 interview, Rice will claim differently. She will say, “In the first video conference, the assumption that everybody kind of shared was that it was global terrorists.… I don’t believe anybody said this is likely al-Qaeda. I don’t think so.” Tenet also relays a warning the CIA has received from French intelligence, saying another group of terrorists is within US borders and is preparing a second wave of attacks. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld briefs on the status of US forces, and states that about 120 fighters are now above US cities. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 26-27; Clarke, 2004, pp. 21-22; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326 and 554; Tenet, 2007, pp. 169] The meeting reportedly ends around 4:00-4:15 p.m. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]
Entity Tags: Norman Mineta, Osama bin Laden, Richard Armitage, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Richard A. Clarke, National Security Council, George W. Bush, George J. Tenet, Donald Rumsfeld, Andrew Card, Al-Qaeda, Condoleezza Rice
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
After attending President Bush’s meeting with his principal advisers in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center beneath the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney heads back upstairs, accompanied by his wife Lynne Cheney and his two top aides, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and David Addington. They all head out onto the White House’s South Lawn and get onto Marine Two, the vice president’s helicopter, being joined on it by a military aide, a communications expert, three Secret Service agents, and Cheney’s doctor. They take off, in violation of long-standing protocol, according to which only the president takes off from the South Lawn. Only a few of the most senior White House officials are informed of their destination. About 30 minutes later they arrive at Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Catoctin Mountains, about 70 miles from the White House. Again going against tradition, Cheney and his family settle into the cabin usually reserved for the president, Aspen Lodge. Liz Cheney, the vice president’s eldest daughter, and her young family, joins them there. This is the first of many nights that Cheney spends in “secure, undisclosed locations” in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks (see September 12, 2001-2002). [Federation of American Scientists, 10/2/2000; Hayes, 2007, pp. 345-346] He will return to Washington the following morning for an 8 a.m. meeting at the White House (see September 12, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/28/2002]
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline